Glenelg "twinned with Mars", what's it all about?


Why Glenelg in Scotland is twinned with Glenelg on Mars!!

The tiny Highland village of Glenelg (Earth) in Scotland has the distinguished honour of being the only place on Earth to be “twinned” with a namesake on another planet!! It's a strangeBB interview with astronaut
Bonnie Dunbar and unique story that started back in 2011 when NASA launched a rocket to Mars. The mission, to land the car sized rover, “curiosity” on the planet at a landing site named “Bradbury”. From there it would travel to its objective, ageological feature they named “Glenelg”. The landing on August 6th, 2012 was like a sci-fi event in itself (see details) and eventually “curiosity” set course for Glenelg (Mars) with an estimated arrival date of October 20th, 2012.

To be honest there doesn’t usually need to be a huge reason to celebrate something in Glenelg with a Ceilidh but our (then) entrepreneurial Local Development Officer Emma MacLean and a few other likeminded locals saw the opportunity to do more – much, much more!!


Making big ideas happen

There were the normal simple, achievable ideas, then there were the silly ones, “lets get a USA astronaut to come over and open it”, “how about a live link into NASA”, “what about a The audience in the marquee stack of telescopes” and maybe “getting the Astronomer Royal for Scotland to come”, oh, and “what about a Martian Ceilidh?!!” We went for the silly ones – and made them happen!!Offices and boardrooms in a small village like Glenelg tend to be, either peoples kitchens or the dining room in the Inn (the preferred venue for meetings as it’s licensed!). Several people quickly lost their cooking space as laptops, printers and phones took over the kitchen worktops. Needless to say in these cases, it’s often a few people that made a lot happen but they were backed up by many more as the local groups within the community clubbed their skills together to produce the Space, Stars and Mars event.Much was done in a few short weeks but a few days beforeLive link to Doug McCuistion, Director of the Mars Exploration Program, NASA the day, things really took off. What followed was media coverage, trucks and delivery lorries, TV cameras and interviewers. Last minute panics!! Construction of a 500 seater venue plus other marquees to host the catering, hog roast and Glenelg Geocache registration point. There were also wires, lots and lots of wires. Given that in Glenelg we have very poor signal coverage for mobile phones (none at the venue) and the broadband is slooooooooow (less than0.5 mbps!) it was always going to be a challenge. The “Live Link” to Doug McCuistion, the Director of the Mars Exploration Program in NASA was finally, and very tenuously joined by a thin 300 foot cable stretched across the football pitch and childrens play park into the nearest cottage where it was plugged into a BT router – and it worked!!


Space, Stars and Mars

The Space, Stars and Mars “opening” and Glenelg “twinning” was conducted by Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, Prof John Brown and Emma Maclean cutting the ribbon.For the main event the marquee was full as Prof John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland introduced the talks. The “live link” held as Doug and NASA put on a fascinating presentation of the Mars missions, past, present and future, and included mock up photos comparing Glenelg (Earth) with Glenelg (Mars). At the end, the audience, including many of the local primary schoolThe Tartan Martian Ceilidh children fired questions at Doug which he enthusiastically answered before the link was eventually closed and the floor passed over to Dr Bonnie Dunbar, a veteran astronaut of 5 shuttle flights accumulating in over 50 days in space. She gave an enthralling story of her life and how she became an astronaut and also her views on how space travel and exploration will evolve in the future. Finally a stunning sign was unveiled by Bonnie Dunbar and John Brown “Honoring the historic journey of NASA’S Rover ‘Curiosity’ to Glenelg, Mars”. This will be placed on the village hall in due course. All in all the Space, Stars and Mars event was a great success showing what a group of people in a small village can achieve. And that’s how Glenelg (Earth) became “twinned” with Glenelg (Mars)!

As for the “Martian Ceilidh”, well after all that work you have to let your hair down a bit and needless to say, it was very, very quiet in Glenelg the next day!!


The specially commissioned “Space, Stars and Mars” sign can be seen on the side of the Glenelg Community Hall and the “Twinned with Glenelg (Mars)” road sign can be see when driving into Glenelg


A final poignant mention: 500 “goody” bags were filled with lots of great gifts, one of which was a flash drive which included a recorded message to the people of Glenelg from the late, great Sir Patrick Moore, wishing them all the best for the Space, Stars and Mars day. This is one of the last recordings he made before passing away just a few weeks later.

Alastair Holgate

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